Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog – a wash and brush up for the new 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures, prior to the FEMbruary believable female figure painting challenge (started by Alex at Lead Balloony)
Annie Norman at her Bad Squiddo official Facebook Group Baggy’s Cave is running an interesting poll about which historical female figures that gamers, mini painters and collectors would like to pledge towards or see produced in future by Bad Squiddo.
I thought of the Bronte Sisters (and brother Branwell) who were pioneering Role Playing Gamers in the 1830s through their juvenile fictions or ImagiNations of Glass Town, Gondal and Angria, inspired by a gift of some wooden toy soldiers.
These have been a great stimulus for my gaming to continuing or exploring these sketched out but sketchy Bronte ImagiNations
The fragments that have survived of these ImagiNations as we have mentioned before in Bronte posts are somewhat confusing but I found that Isabel Greenberg’s charming graphic novel version Glass Town straightens or smoothed many of these story and character fragments out.
I loved Isabel Greenberg’s drawings of these four Brontes in the same Regency / early Victorian costumes as their ImagiNations characters. You can see an example of such pages of Isabel’s work here on the interesting US based Solrad comics website:
Annie Norman’s Bad Squiddo figures are usually 28mm. I think that Bronte figures would be excellent figures – and even better if there was a set in ImagiNations uniforms and a shadow set as they were in real life portraits, always useful as Early Victorian Civilians.
Dual Use figures – saves costs, extends their play value and their potential market of buyers, as well as the Haworth Yorkshire tourism, the Bronte Fan and literary market worldwide.
Adding Bronte ImagiNations command or character personality figures means that with some simple dual flagging, a Napoleonic or Colonial 19th Century unit instantly becomes an ImagiNations one.
The Bronte sisters and Branwell grew up in an age of conflict in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, during a young Queen Victoria’s expanding Empire and Charlotte living up to the Crimean War. Their tragic deaths at a relatively young age meant they were all dead ten years before the American Civil War.
The same dual flagging works at 15mm with the addition of an Angrian flag bearer to my Peter Laing mixed ACW and ECW unit figures seen here seeing off Ashantee Warriors and rogue Highlanders in the ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ forest of the Brontes’ fevered Imaginations:
After a mad few minutes “Bronte Fan Bombing” the comments section of Baggy’s Cave on Facebook a little, I wondered what if Annie Norman and the Bad Squiddo Facebook folk don’t choose the Brontes as special figures?
I might have to scratch around in 20mm Airfix for Waggon Train women, both bare headed or in bonnets, and the Robin Hood / Sherwood Forest sets (Maid Marian on horseback!) to find suitable Bronte Sisters figures in uniform. I would have to do the same for my few Peter Laing 15mm civilian females.
I don’t usually go to wargames shows as there are none that near me anyway.
I know that not attending these shows due to the pandemic closures has affected lots of manufacturers, big and small. I thoroughly support someone’s suggestion on their blog or Facebook forum that we should buy what we would have browsed and bought at a show. Many figure companies that have not mothballed during the pandemic have been doing their best to keep going through their online shop offer.
In addition to the small purchases that I make throughout the year to put away for Christmas to help my family out on the difficult task of what to buy me as a gift, I have bought ahead of time these beautiful and unusual Bad Squiddo female Pigeoneers of WW2 and pigeon baskets.
I don’t game in 28mm. These will get painted up as part of my #FEMbruary female figure painting challenge for 2021.
They should do well as a possible painting diorama vignette entry on the next Spring Flower Show (this year’s show was another casualty of Lockdown). The wonderful Doctor Carrot and Potato Pete figures are for another future project but could also form an alternative Spring flower show entry in the mixed craft section?
When I posted this in Baggy’s Cave the Bad Squiddo Facebook fan group, it made Annie Norman cry!
Whoops. I made Annie Norman cry. I didn’t think the gloss toy soldier painting was that bad. 🙂
Sorry Annie! Bad Squiddo – a great smaller ‘mini’ company to support. Annie Norman does a very relaxed and informal visual Sunday coffee morning hangout on YouTube and there is also the Baggy’s Cave Facebook group.
In future posts, I will share some more Christmas stowings away of a small Infantry skirmish sized order from Paul at Early War Miniatures Dutch and Danish 1940 range in 20mm and a patrol or two of Sergeants Mess Boy Scouts also in 20mm (1:72 metal).
Support your favourite Miniature makers – buy early for Christmas. Or now …
Why? Because you’re worth it! They need the cash flow. It’s our gaming version of the government “eat out to help out” scheme for restaurants in the U.K.
A success for boycraft at my local village spring flower show!
My 28mm Bad Squiddo Miniatures WW2 Land Girls received ThirdPrize in the Miscellaneous (Adult) Crafts.
I was quietly pleased as it is the first time I’ve entered, having noticed a lack of male competitors in many sections last year. My Land Girls had good stiff competition in their Miscellaneous Crafts Class 96 against serious traditional crafts like stained glass and felt art / making.
I wasn’t sure how a military subject would go down in the craft section of a flower show, so chose something appropriate to the horticultural theme and the local area. I’m sure the local Land Girls came in for dances in our Village Hall, which opened like many after the First World War.
I wasn’t sure how my shiny gloss toy soldier painting style would go down, whether people would expect something more ‘Matt’ and earthy.
The judges wrote on the entry slip “So detailed and a wonderful sentiment. Thank you for entering” as I had personalised it as a tribute to Land Girls who served and trained in the area I live in. That’s good enough for me – one of the judges got what I was trying to do.
To create a context for the women at work, I added some simple brown felt strips over coffee stirrers to be the rows for spuds (potatoes) being planted.
It has been overcast and stormy, not the best weekend of constant light for photography, but I wanted to photograph the figures in case they didn’t survive the hustle and bustle of exhibition outside of a display case.
A previous blog post shows the Land Girls in preparation:
I’m already thinking about what to enter next year … maybe I will enter some quirky Prince August based 54mm home cast traditional toy soldiers? Speaking of Prince August moulds and figures – Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Who knows my ‘Land Girls’ might flush out into the open a few more male crafters for next year? This would be great but also more competition.
Thanks to Marvin at Suburban Militarism blog for his encouragement to enter this mancraft into the flower show.
It’s World Book Day on March 7th and International Women’s Day on March 8th (so unofficially the end of this year’s painting and modelling challenge #FEMbruary 2019).
To mark these dates I thought that I would review this fascinating military oral history book about Russian women in WW2. It is possibly one of the freshest and most interesting military or social history books that I have read about WW2 for several years since The Taste of War: WW2 and the Battle for Food by Lizzie Collingham (2011).
One of the downsides of reading many WW2 books is having to (skim) read the same material over and over again in different books, which makes finding new material or insights all the more interesting.
The author Svetlana Alexievich interviewed many Russian servicewomen in the 1970s and 1980s about their war experiences in WW2. She used the same ‘polyphonic’ oral history approach in her other work such as Boys in Zinc (1991) about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which I have not yet read.
The Unwomanly Face of War was published first in Russian in 1985, then translated into English in Moscow in 1988. The book was rejected by several Russian publishers as ‘unsuitable’ history. When this book was first written and the oral histories recorded, Russia was still the old USSR then. Glasnost and Perestroika were still several years away.
Svetlana Alexievich returned to the subject of the book in the early 2002-2004 and added or restored more material, presumably as some forms of Soviet 1980s censorship had changed by then. This is what is featured in this recent translation published by Penguin in 2017 / 2018.
There are some updated or presumably new sections in the preface – “what the censors threw out”, “from a conversation with a censor” and “what I threw out” – that are interesting to read in light of this self censorship and official censorship of what is suitable national history.
Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015 for her well curated “polyphonic” oral histories on Chernobyl, the Russian war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the break up of the USSR, children in WW2 and this unusual book on Russian women at war in WW2.
WhyamIreading this book?
I began reading this book as part of my 2019 FEMbruary figure challenge to paint or celebrate your believable female gaming or model miniatures.
The recent 28mm Women of WW2 Bad Squiddo Miniatures range by Annie Norman had not only female soldiers, tank crews and snipers but also a command group of medics and radio operators, which I chose to paint. They are almost complete as of the end of #FEMbruary.
What makes the book unusual and fascinating is that it is skilfully curated directly from the words of the women themselves, presumably transcribed from tape recordings or letters. Their job roles go beyond the somewhat known – female snipers, the first female fighter pilots – and into the less well known but more stereotypically ‘feminine’ jobs. Surgeon. Nurse. Medical Assistants to infantry or Army Regiments – armed Combat Medics.
There were plenty of women who worked with or fought with the Partisans. Other women served on the front line as sappers, engineers, mechanics, radio and telegraph engineers.
Even more surprising were the oral histories from women proud of their patriotic service as Laundrywomen. Mobile bath units. Cooks. Bakers. You forget that someone had to clean and repair uniforms. Cook the bread. Boil the water for soldiers to have a hot bath.
These women are the equivalent to the unromantic duties of the ATS women in Britain who cooked, cleaned, baked and repaired for the war effort – but often in the war in Russia these jobs took women well into the combat zone and front line.
A quick scan through of the ranks listed after each woman’s name shows everything from Private and Partisan fighter through junior officers (“Lieutenant, Political Commissar of a Field Laundry Unit” was one of the most unusual) up to high ranking posts such as airforce officers and a rare, almost accidental female Naval Commander post!
The range of jobs listed by the interviewees is fascinating:
Factory Labour Front Worker
Partisan Underground Fighter / Liaison / Medic
Commander MG Platoon
Field Bath and Laundry Unit, Laundress
Construction Unit, Engineer / Sapper / Miner (land mines?)
Logistics / Driver / Traffic Controller
Postal Worker / Communications
Telegrapher / Telephone Operator
Nurse / Nurse Aide / Matron through to Surgeon
Paramedic and Private, Motorised infantry
(Front line) Medical Assistant to an Army Company or Cavalry Squadron
Airplane Mechanic / Car Mechanic
Pilot / Airforce Captain
Naval Fleet Commander
Some jobs I had never heard of such as an AerostatOperator – I had to look this up. Surprsingly such odd or old fashioned sounding jobs are still advertised today! An aerostat (from Greek aer (air) + statos (standing) via French) is a “lighter than air aircraft that gains its lift through the use of a buoyant gas. Aerostats include unpowered balloons and powered airships. Especially with airships, the gasbags are often protected by an outer envelope.” (Wikipedia)
Maybe these aerostat operators are the equivalent of the WAAF girls who handled Barrage Balloons in Britain. These Aerostat balloons were known as ‘Pigs’ not just because of their shape but also stubbornly annoying “temperament”. Such balloon girls were immortalised in paint by British war artist Laura Knight. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15503
The Unwomanly Face of War sadly has no such illustrations, aside from the striking cover image of Natalya Kravtsova, commander of the 46th Guards Air Regiment, well decorated ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’. It would have been interesting to have seen wartime photos of these women at work or when they were interviewed in the 1970s and 1980s. However I’m sure a trawl through Soviet wartime art would reveal many Laura Knight style, realist/ Soviet heroic style portrait paintings of Russian servicewomen. Pinterest has many ‘recoloured’ portrait photos of Russian servicewomen, decorated, famous or otherwise.
It is not a pleasant read in parts, dealing plainly with frontline combat, injury and also the atrocities inflicted on Russian civilians.
There is also however friendship, romance, patriotic pride, occasional humour, stoic self sacrifice, postwar denial and a relief at finally being able to tell or record these stories and experiences many years later.
The end of my FEMbruary challenge 2019?
I am not sure what use this book would be to wargamers or tabletop gamers who focus on the Eastern Front in WW2 or what they would make of this book.
As I have no intention of gaming the Eastern Front in 28mm, I bought these Bad Squiddo figures more for diorama or vignette purposes. They could potentially be converted to female troops of other nationalities.
I don’t have many female miniatures or toy soldiers. The Queen, the odd nurse or land girl, a few female pioneers or Wild West Civilians. None of them are quite like the scantily clad Phoenix Phollies Figures (Phigures?) that lurked expensively in the back pages of Military Modelling magazine in the Eighties, near the latest Peter Laing adverts. You could (and I did) buy a small 15mm Peter Laing army for the cost of one of those female (or male fantasy) figures.
Marvin of the Suburban Militarism Blog sometimes features femalesoldiers including recently Serbian WW1 women soldiers
Maybe #FEMbruary this year is extra special because it is the 100th anniversary of The Representation of the People Act on 6 February 1918 / 2018.
This enfranchised or gave the vote for the first time British women over 30 who qualified as property owners etc and British men over 21. To match the men without property who could vote, the women’s vote would finally be widened to all women over 21 in 1928. About blooming time!
Women partly earned this long-fought-for right because of their contribution to the war effort in WW1 stepping into many professions that had previously been denied them as men were called up.
How could you conscript and sacrifice the lives of large numbers of working men in the name of democracy, when these men without property didn’t have the vote back home?
A surprisingly large number of women died on the Home Front in munitions, air raids and overseas on active service through enemy action and disease.
This is the focus of the WW100 commemoration this year with the First World War Centenary Partnership and the Imperial War Museum.
#FEMbruary, Women, fantasy and gaming?
The Fantasy gaming world has more female gamers than the historical gaming / wargaming community. There are a few female Wargames bloggers such as Tamsin P. , “That mythical beast – a female Wargamer!”of the Wargaming Girl blog http://wargaminggirl.blogspot.co.uk
and also Victoria Dickinson at Vicky’s Crazy Wargames World blog with lots of unusual fantasy / historical gaming (Wormingrad? Fabulous Fimo fantasy figures?) http://crazywargames.blogspot.co.uk
Gaming has also had (in the past?) some fairly unrepresentative or oversexualised female miniature figures, something that is being challenged by the ‘Dice Bag Lady’ Annie Norman who runs Bad Squiddo games.http://badsquiddogames.com
Annie produces some interesting WW2 Russian women soldiers, British Land Girls and Women’s Home Guard figures, but in 28mm, unfortunately not one of my current gaming scales.
“The number one aim for Bad Squiddo Games is to create and supply the miniatures that would have made the hobby far far better for my 10 year old self. To welcome more young girls and women into wargaming and miniature painting, as well as providing diverse options to the entire gaming community. And yeah – cool toys!” Bad Squiddo website
What can Man of TIN do to mark #FEMbruary and the WoMan of TIN?
At a risk of distorting my New Gaming Year Unresolutions 2018